EDITORIAL: If it’s going to be a hotel, let’s make sure it fits

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(Image/City of Alexandria)

And just like that, the city’s waterfront is back in the spotlight. Two major developments this month could play a major role in what Alexandria’s Potomac shoreline looks like in a few decades.

One is part of a national story: the sale of The Washington Post. Though the deal includes Post Co. subsidiary The Robinson Terminal Co., it does not include the similarly named properties in Old Town.

The other development is far more local. Washington-based Carr Hospitality is returning to City Hall with redrawn plans for the 200 block of S. Union St.

All three locations — the Cummings and Turner block along South Union Street and the Robinson Terminals — are targeted for redevelopment in the city waterfront plan. The three sites represent the crown jewels of a revitalized and vibrant riverfront.

While the Post sale is interesting, it’s the Carr Hospitality proposal that will command local attention these next few months. If all goes as scheduled, the planning commission and city council could vote on it as soon as January or February.

Unsurprisingly, however, waterfront plan critics are reiterating that a hotel on that block is inappropriate, so they will adamantly oppose it. This is their right, of course, and we applaud them for taking an active role in civic affairs.
But their efforts increasingly seem like opposition for the sake of opposition.

Our city councilors have voted twice now — the second time with a supermajority in favor — to approve the redevelopment plan as well as the zoning changes. These include allowing hotels along the riverfront.

And even if, as opponents hope, the state Supreme Court invalidates one or both votes, the council’s makeup isn’t going to change anytime soon. City councilors can go ahead and vote again — a third time — to approve the changes.

So let’s start with the premise that our duly elected representatives have spoken. Hotels may or may not spring up along the shoreline, but that is what city councilors — and their constituents — want to see on the waterfront.

Where do we go from here? There is still time for constructive criticism and participation as the project moves ahead. If a hotel is built in the Cummings and Turner block, let’s ensure the architecture fits with the atmosphere of Old Town; the traffic generated is mitigated; and policies are in place to account for the sudden intrusion of visitors in an otherwise — usually — sleepy section of the neighborhood.

It’s OK to be critical about Carr Hospitality’s proposal. It’s fine to help the company and City Hall find a plan that fits best into the neighborhood. But the time for standing athwart the prospect of waterfront hotels, yelling stop, has long since passed.